Crisis resilience in persons with MS

Dr Yvonne Learmonth

Dr Yvonne Learmonth

Murdoch University, WA

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Project | 2021 | Investigator Led Research |


The Australian bushfires of 2019/2020, closely followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, have brought crisis care capabilities for people living with MS to the forefront. Currently there is scarce research exploring the impact of natural disasters and pandemics in the MS population. More generally, research has shown that individuals living with disability may be up to four times more likely to sustain injuries or death in disaster circumstances compared to the general population. This is mainly due to impairments in areas such as mobility, cognition and communication. At present there are no formal recommendations in place to guide management of people living with MS in times of crisis.

Dr Learmonth and her team will explore both the prevalence and the impact of the 2019/2020 bushfires and pandemic on the healthcare of people living with MS in Australia, by performing interviews and surveys to more deeply understand the experiences and responses of people affected. Analysis of this information will provide the foundations for developing a toolkit to be used for healthcare-based disaster management for people with MS in the future. As well as assisting people with MS, it is anticipated that this toolkit will also be useful for people living with disability from other conditions, and can be refined to their specific needs, thus broadening the impact of this research across the wider community.

Progress to Date

Dr Learmonth and her team have made significant progress to date. They have completed a comprehensive literature review identifying gaps in available resources for disaster management specifically tailored to people living with disabilities. A total of 37 interviews have taken place with people with MS and care givers, along with 60 surveys to develop a deep understanding of the health impact of the bushfires, and the COVID-19 pandemic on people with MS.   

The findings from these components of the study will be used in the next stage of the work, which involves developing   a toolkit for healthcare-based disaster management specifically designed for people with MS. The toolkit will be developed in collaboration with people with MS, their carers, and relevant healthcare professionals. 

Dr Learmonth and her team plan to publish a new article early in 2023 that will outline the health experiences of the Australian MS community during the second year of the pandemic.  This holds great promise for enhancing disaster management strategies and healthcare support for people with MS. 


  • Yvonne C Learmonth , Hunter Assunta , Petra Skeffington , Walker Diana , Allan G Kermode, Claudia H Marck (2023) Healthcare complexities during community crises: Recommendation for access to healthcare for Australians with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord 2023 Mar;71:104531 
  • Learmonth YC, Hunter A, Gibbs L, Walker D, Kermode AG, Marck CH. The impact of the Australian Black Summer Bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic on wellbeing in persons with multiple sclerosis; preparation for future and ongoing crises. Disabil Rehabil. 2022 Feb 15:1-14.  
  • Marck CH, Hunter A, Heritage B, Gibbs L, Kermode AG, Walker DI, Learmonth YC. The effect of the Australian bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic on health behaviours in people with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021 Aug;53:103042.  

Updated: 31 March 2023

Updated: 19 January, 2021

Stages of the research process

Fundamental laboratory

Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 10+ years

Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.

Lab to clinic timeline: 5+ years
Clinical Studies
and Clinical Trials

Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.

Lab to clinic timeline: 1-5 years


Grant Awarded

  • Project Grant

Total Funding

  • $230,000


  • 3 years

Funding Partner

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Dr Phu Hoangdr-mastura-monif

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Crisis resilience in persons with MS